DENVER - The mother of a teenager killed in the Aurora theater shooting called for action on gun control Friday, saying during an emotional appearance at the Colorado Capitol that it's a debate that should've happened sooner.
"The conversation has got to start today. It should've started years ago," said Theresa Hoover, the mother of 18-year-old AJ Boik. "And it's shame on us for letting it get this far."
Hoover and Boik's uncle Dave Hoover spoke alongside Democratic lawmakers who have signaled that they'll be introducing gun-control legislation, which is expected to one of the most contentious topics of the legislative session that starts next month. The debate has received renewed attention in Colorado because of the shootings at a Connecticut elementary school, and the killings in suburban Denver in July.
Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper said in an interview last week before the Connecticut shootings that the time is right to debate gun control. He's suggested legislation to accelerate background checks for mental illness on gun purchases, and he's proposing an expansion of services for the mentally ill.
Lawmakers also have discussed the possibility of a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity clips, but no legislation has been introduced yet. Whatever Democrats introduce, they can expect an intense debate with gun owners.
"We're going to fight them every single step," said Dudley Brown, CEO of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which advocates for firearms owners' rights. "If they win, it's only going to be after they go through us. We don't believe a crazed lunatic justification for banning an entire class of firearms."
Brown said more firearm restrictions won't prevent tragedies.
"What would've stopped them is, stop creating these gun-free zones where teachers are not allowed to protect kids, or adults for that matter," Brown said.
Boik's family went to the Capitol on the day that marked one week since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut school before killing himself. There was a moment of silence around the country.
"I know I'm going to be moving beyond a moment of silence to taking a plan of action," said Democratic Rep. Rhonda Fields, who represents Aurora and is expected to introduce gun control legislation.
The National Rifle Association also held its first news conference Friday to respond to what happened in Connecticut. The NRA's top lobbyist, Wayne LaPierre, said armed police officers should be posted at every American school to prevent another mass shooting.
"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," he said.
Democratic Sen. Morgan Carroll, who also represents Aurora, said the NRA's suggestion is "not a solution."
"It's a decoy," Carroll said.
Dave Hoover said it was "foolish" to say more firearms are necessary.
"For us not to do anything from this day and say we need more guns out there and we need to have more firearms out there in the hands of honest people is foolish right now," he said.
AJ Boik was one of 12 people killed in the Aurora movie theater. Seventy others were wounded.
"He was going to be a teacher," Theresa Hoover said. "He wasn't in it for the money. He was in it because that was where his heart was. The world is a darker place because he's not here."